Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

December 31, 2012:

It was the day before Christmas was and another campground morning meeting with Twinkles volunteering for Friday's breakfast potluck and to do food serving at the gala New Year Eve dinner/dance party.  Then at 2 PM to the campground jam session for an hour of mostly old time country music which was very entertaining, then a ride to Mission San Xavier del Bac for an Indian fry bread snack and to check out the church Christmas decorations.  It is spiritually uplifting to be there and step inside, always feels like you are time traveling back into history.  Must admit I'm having a hard time getting used to Christmas here in the Arizona desert.  

It was a drive to Phoenix on Christmas day to my sister's house for Christmas with the family.  We got to see my great niece Tatum open many presents, lots of rockstar/deva/peace sign items.  We ate really well, all day, then stayed overnight and left at noon on the 26th. It was real special to spend Christmas day with my sister and Mom again, it's probably been about 40 years since that has happened !

After the drive back to Tucson and a short nap I forced myself to go back out to the Hotel Congress for a benefit concert for the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame. Blues music in Tucson is generally pretty weak, (almost non existent), lots of good musicians, but not many blues players. My expectations were low for this concert, but I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn't a large group of players but they really were Hall of Fame caliber !  They had a good turnout for the event, but they certainly are lacking in the promotion department, no CD's for sale, no tee shirts, no raffle tickets, no merchandise of any kind, no email sign up list.  It's kind of like they don't want to be too successful.

I skipped the Thursday hiking group, was suffering from an overdose of cake, pie, cookies and chocolate.  Instead there was an exciting trip to Target and the local feed store to get the propane tank filled. We are going through a tank of propane per week now with these cold (near freezing) nights.   
Friday morning was the potluck breakfast event at the campground, another big meal, egg dishes, sausage, pancakes, biscuits and gravy.  I needed to go for a long walk afterwards, so I drove over to Saguaro Park and did a 5 mile hike on the Esperanza Trail. 
Friday evening was a concert at the campground, a part Native American, part Scottish, classically trained violin and flute player named Arvel Bird.  He tours full time like us !  This is one of the most popular concerts at Desert Trails, it was a full house and he put on a great show.  His violin playing is world class and alternates between Indian, Country and Celtic music.

Saturday we took a ride to Tubac, the oldest, 1752, European (Spanish) settlement in present day Arizona.  I say in this this time period, because there was no Arizona or United States in 1752.  The Spanish had been wandering around this area previously, looking for gold and silver, but it wasn't until 1752 that they built a "presidio" or fort to reinforce their control over the area and for protection from the raiding Apache Indians.  Tubac has had a turbulent history, was virtually abandoned twice and nothing is left of the original Presidio except for the wall foundation (underground).  We visited the excellent State Park and museum there that has an underground excavated section showing the actual fort wall foundation and some of the artifacts found there.  Ironically, Tubac (the town) has now become part artist colony, part artistic shopping mall complex and part destination for the rich and famous.  

Sunday was a cold, cloudy day in Tucson, high of 56 degrees and rain is forecast for tonight.  In fact at 6 PM, I am freezing, just had some hot coffee, put on a second long sleeve shirt and turned on the electric fireplace.  We went out looking for some form of bookcase or wall shelf earlier today.  We started off at an Antique Mall that had lots of really cool stuff, but no bookcases or shelves for sale.  Then we stopped at a couple of thrift shops and ended up buying several items, including a shelf that fit the bill and everything was dirt cheap, it was big fun ! 

Tomorrow big New Years Eve dinner and party at Desert Trails, should be interesting ? 

Interior of Mission San Xavier del Bac

Incredible details

Sunset from Desert Trails

View on the Esperanza Trail

The water storage tanks in the desert for Tucson water supply

CCC built steps on the Esperanza Trail

I'm stopping at the top, but when I get there, I see something else in the distance I want to go to

A really special Saguaro off the trail

Anza expedition leaving Tubac for California

Nice horse bridles and reins at Tubac museum

Original printing press that printed first newspaper in Arizona, it still works

Painting of the Tubac Presidio back in the day, nothing remains today

Tubac shopping is interesting

Tile mural in Tubac

Nice Piggy bank

Here's looking at you

The Big Horn Grill is up for sale

An item I purchased in Tubac

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24, 2012:

A frosty Monday morning, 31 degrees and ice on the truck, but by noon it was close to 60 degrees.  This is the winter time of the year here at Tucson for a few weeks, our furnace is getting quite a workout these nights.  A camper here told us that 2 years ago there was a record cold spell, 3 nights in a row with 17 degree cold temperatures, frozen pipes and all. That was record breaking cold, not the usual, I hope !  

After the morning meeting, Twinkles took off with her quilt buddies for a museum quilt exhibit, I took off for a photo adventure on 4th and 6th avenues in Tucson. This is a colorful predominately hispanic area.  I don't understand half of the signs, but the colors and graphics are pleasing to the eye.  Tucson is a strange place, a real melting pot, the native Indians lived here since at least 1000 BC, then the Spanish came and established the city in 1775, then it became Mexico in 1821 until the Gadsden purchase in 1854 when it came under the jurisdiction of the United States. Arizona became a US Territory in 1863 and the 48th state in 1912.  

Monday evening we went to an open house in an area of the campground they call the circle.   This circular area was decorated by the campers with about a hundred luminaries (lighted candles in paper bags), everyone in the campground was welcome to visit, bring food, socialize, eat and hang out.  There was a big fire going and there were about a thousand cookies, hot cocoa and hot cider. 

Another trip for me into Tucson on Wednesday night for a music concert at the Congress Hotel. It was two local bands, "Andrew Collberg" and "Sweet Ghost" followed by the main act "Dry River Yacht Club".  Never heard of any of them before, but the "Sweet Ghosts" appear to be a hot up and coming local band, I liked them.  The "Yacht Club" was a touring band with lots of instruments and a super talented lead vocalist.  She was cute, sexy with good moves and a great voice, that's an unbeatable combination. 

On Thursday, Twinkles and I went with the campground hiking group for a 6 1/2 mile hike on the Pima Canyon Trail.  The trail was very rocky and follows a wash into the Pima Canyon.  As this gets more water, there was a lot of vegatation and trees in the lower areas.  It was a great hike with huge towering walls of rocks on both sides. 

After getting back to the campground and relaxing for a while, we didn't feel like cooking.  So, we drove about 15 miles out into the desert at dusk, the last mile on a dirt road, to get to "Fred's".  We were riding into the sunset and it was a great one, of course I didn't have my camera, but the phone did pretty good.  People in the campground have been telling us we just must go to Fred's to eat.  It is out in the middle of nowhere, a large rustic wooden building housing a "real" western country cowboy bar and restaurant.  They cook steaks inside over a wood fire and they are reputed to be excellent, but someone told us the Pizza was the best.  We haven't had good pizza since leaving NJ, so we had to try it, and a large pizza with a pitcher of beer for $15 is pretty good deal.  Surprisingly, I have to admit, the pizza was really great !  Around 8:45 PM after the days activity, the hiking (20,000 steps today on Twinkles pedometer), the beer and the pizza we were struggling to keep our eyes open.

There are a lot of "End of the World' party events going on in Tucson which I didn't go to, but I did buy a six pack of Shock Top "End of the World" beer.  It was horrible beer, I thought they just put a cute label on the regular stuff, NO, it was a special brew with midnight wheat, chocolate malt, chili and spice.  I wonder if the bottles will be collectable ?

Saturday we went for a morning hike, which didn't turn out so good, Twinkle's knee was acting up and she practically limped back.  After some rehab ice packs, we continued on to the Tohono Chul Botanical Park in Tucson.   It was really great, goes on my must do list!  On the way back to camp we stopped at Trader Joe's for some holiday treats, then went to a great local bakery / restaurant called "Beyond Bread", Twinkles said it was frigging delicious, better than "Panera Bread". 

We have a plan for the next two months, On January 11th we plan to move to the San Jose Lodge and campground just outside Bisbee, Arizona (very close to Mexico) for the about 3 weeks, then go west to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for a week, then to Quartzsite, Arizona in early February.  At Quartzite the plan is to boondock with the RV Dreams crowd (drink some more of the Kool-aid as my friend Mark Hooley would say), learn the newest trends in Solar panels, controllers, inverters and attend various other activities at this huge gathering in the desert. 

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all !

Interesting liquor store in Tucson

Grand Central Barber Shop in Tucson

Sign on 6th Avenue in Tucson

Beautiful Church on 6th Avenue Tucson

Welcome to South Tucson, notice the snow on mountain top in the distance

iPhone photo taken on the road to Fred's

Would you go to the Viking car wash ?

View from the Pima Canyon Trail

The hiking group on the trail

View up into the Pima Canyon

Sign at the Tohono Chul Botanical Park

Mural in Tucson

Mural at the El Tiradito shrine

Elysian Market in Tucson

The El Tiradito Shrine

Interesting mural in Tucson

Ugly but honest in Tucson

Tucson Mural

Old Tucson church

The El Paso and Southwestern railroad

View behind the campground at dusk

Flaming sunset from campground observation deck

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rain in the Desert

December 16, 2012:

An exciting week, we had low temperatures near freezing, clouds, rain, fog and snow in the mountains.  Wouldn't you know that as soon as I write a blog entry about how dry and dusty it has been, it rains !  I'm saying it anyhow.

It's not all fun and games in this lifestyle, some work occasionally must be done.  On Monday, we could barely see out of the windows, they were so filthy, so we got out the cleaning supplies and went to work.  Everything gets so dust covered out here, and no rain to wash it off naturally, my favorite way of cleaning.  I don't think we have had a rainy day since we left New Jersey, other than a few thunderstorms. I am starting to look forward to a rainy day, how strange is that?  On cleaning, I don't know if it's the water here, the dirt here, or the new "Windex", but it's real difficult to get windows squeaky clean.  

Got my fill of music this week.  Monday afternoon jam session at the campground, mostly all retired country western type sun birds, had flash backs of the Grand Old Oprey, it was real folksy and I have to admit fun.  Then on Tuesday night to a Tucson club "Plush" to hear 3 touring bands. Thursday through Saturday there was a 3 day music fest, called "The Great Cover-up" taking place at different venues in downtown Tucson involving 50 local bands all playing cover tunes from bands that most people know or have at least heard of.  Thursday night I was back to "Plush" for the first of the Cover-up events.  Friday evening was a concert at the campground that was mainly Bing Crosby sounding Christmas music, had to sneak out during intermission. On Saturday afternoon to the Rialto Theater for the 3rd Cover-up event. Why do I have this ringing sound in my ears in morning ? 

Thursday Twinkles and I went for another hike in Tucson Mountain Park on a very scenic trail at Gates Pass.  Twinkles was thrilled to find a snake skeleton that has now been added to our collection. I was happy to see big fluffy white cumulous clouds rolling in providing great light conditions for photography.    

What's going on with fuel prices, Diesel is $3.55 here now, down from around $4.00 a month ago ?  I shouldn't complain, but why these constant gyrations in the price.  Sometimes I wonder about the free enterprise system ?  Bottom line is I know these prices won't last, just be happy now, next summer I'll be paying $4.25 or more again.  Twinkles is right, she says I am starting to go off on rants like an old man, Sorry dear.

Sunday was a trip to the DeGrazia studio for a "La Fiesta de Guadalupe' with another couple from the campground. 

The upper elevations of the Catalina mountains north of Tucson received a good amount of snowfall this week.  I have an urge to ride up there this coming week to check another climate zone.

On that note, also making arrangements for a trip back to New Jersey on January 3rd to the 8th during this extended stay in Tucson. 

On a rainy night in Tucson

Twinkles on the trail

Twinkles holding a Cholla Cactus seed pod, don't squeeze !

View from the Gates Pass Trail

Another trail view

Visiting Santa at the Tucson train station

The Rialto Theater in Tucson

The Great Cover-up poster

Tiny's Saloon, a favorite spot near Desert Trails Campground

Weird Saguaro Cactus growth

Wide angle view from desert behind campsite

Rainbow from the campground

Fog in desert behind campground

Dancing at La Fiesta de  Guadalupe